- Hardcover: 320 pages
- Publisher: Crown; First Edition edition (May 6, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0307382176
- ISBN-13: 978-0307382177
- Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 15 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,984,016 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Crush the Cell: How to Defeat Terrorism Without Terrorizing Ourselves First Edition Edition
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“Michael Sheehan has written the most sensible and coherent approach to combating terrorism to date, and at just the right time. He is a man of unique credentials and perspective, someone who has been dealing with the problem in one way or another his entire life, and his assessment of the threat and prescriptions for dealing with it are clear-eyed, grounded in hard experience, and convincing. I hope whoever next occupies the Oval Office first reads this book.”
—Mark Bowden, New York Times bestselling author of Black Hawk Down, Killing Pablo and Guests of the Ayatollah
"Filled with startling insights, Crush the Cell is a dispatch from the front lines of our confrontation with Al Qaeda. Like its author, the book is smart, tough, brave and relentlessly honest. If you’re looking for truth, not hype, Mike Sheehan is your man."
—Madeleine K. Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State
“Michael Sheehan has worked every aspect of the counterterrorism story from senior positions at the State Department and New York’s Police Department to the frontline of Special Forces operations. He brings that unique blend of experiences and perspectives to Crush theCell, which is a clearly written and lively overview of the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates that is not only a great read, but will also inform policy makers for years to come.”
—Peter Bergen, New York Times bestselling author of Holy War, Inc. and The Osama Bin Laden I Know
“Michael Sheehan has long been one of the most creative, original thinkers on the subject of terrorism. His personal experience, combined with a determined and original mind, make him unique and always insightful. I can't think of anyone else who brings such a fresh perspective to this vital field."
—Lawrence Wright, author of the New York Times bestselling and Pulitzer-Prize winning The Looming Tower
“During the 9/11 Commission investigations, we interviewed more than 1200 current and former federal officials. One of the most impressive —and as the records clearly demonstrated — most effective officials in the counterterrorist effort was Michael Sheehan. He ‘got it.’ If more Clinton or Bush officials had paid attention to him, the tragedy of 9/11 might have been averted. He went on to build the most effective counterterrorist intelligence unit in the U.S. within the New York Police Department. His new book will be read by Presidential candidates and all who wish to understand the threat we face.”
—John Lehman, former Secretary of the Navy and Member of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States
"Michael Sheehan has worked on terrorism as a policy maker in the State Department, as a police official on the streets of New York, and as a Green Beret in the US Army. He is the real deal. In Crush theCell he tells us the difference between the continuing real threat from al Qaeda and the over-hyped, politically motivated scare tactics that have spawned a bloated counter-terrorism bureaucracy and industry."
—Richard A. Clarke, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller Against All Enemies
“Mike Sheehan is the person I would most want at my side when trying to stop terrorists. . . . [In this book] he shows how much of America’s antiterror efforts are misdirected and how to fix them . . . A primer for the next president.”
—Richard Holbrooke, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
About the Author
MICHAEL A. SHEEHAN has held the following positions: New York City Deputy Commissioner for Counterterrorism; Assistant Secretary General in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations at the United Nations; Ambassador at Large for Counterterrorism at the State Department; National Security Council staff officer at the White House; and commander of a counterterrorism hostage rescue unit in the U.S. Army Special Forces. A graduate of West Point as well as U.S. Army Airborne, Ranger, and Special Forces schools, Sheehan was deployed in such hot spots as El Salvador, Panama, Korea, and Somalia before retiring from the military as a lieutenant colonel.
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What a disappointment.
The author's 20 years in the Army as a Special Forces officer, counterterrorism adviser and National Security Council staff member indeed gave him a wide perspective from which to develop his own views and recommendations for dealing with terrorists. But that is what leaves one so wanting.
Of all the time Sheehan spent around real soldiers, the majority of his book is devoted to throwing rocks at other government agencies (primarily the DOD, CIA and FBI) for their inability to predict and counter real terrorism threats. How odd that these criticisms would come from a junior diplomat who served tours at the United Nations and State Department--two institutions of limited worth and even less accomplishment, Mr. Sheehan's service notwithstanding.
He serves up most of his criticism for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. How he came to develop his animus toward the FBI is probably a function of the time he spent at NYPD. The NYPD has been a notorious critic of the FBI and its easy to understand how that attitude can spread among the ranks--with or without justification.
The farther along I got in the book, the more obvious it became that the author had some serious coping issues with the FBI. Oddly enough--and to Sheehan's credit--he admits as much.
On page 193 he writes, "By now my prejudices are surely obvious to you: I have tremendous respect and admiration for the people I worked with at NYPD, but my experiences with FBI have left me with mixed emotions." He then goes on to compare how the NYPD and the FBI differ in how they handle their responsibilities--a silly exercise in the first place--and concludes, not surprisingly, that the NYPD covers areas that the FBI ignores. So what?
The NYPD is, despite its post-9/11 focus on terrorism, a city police department responsible only for law enforcement within New York City. It has roughly 35,000 sworn officers to deal with a land mass of just over 300 square miles and a population of roughly 8.2 million. It has a commissioner at its head and a mayor over him.
The FBI, by comparison, has approximately 12,000 special agents to deal with the entire United States and over 40 foreign locations. It has a director at its head and an attorney general over him. It also has 535 members of Congress who think that the FBI is their own security force to be steered and directed at their very whim. These members of Congress are responsible for adding needless jurisdiction onto the FBI further diverting it from more urgent work like terrorism and organized crime. You bet there is a difference in how the NYPD and the FBI approach their responsibilities.
What works for the NYPD within its 300 miles of real estate is fine. But by no means is it possible or even practical for other cities in the nation.
What has worked, albeit with some bumps along the way, has been the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Forces established first, not coincidentally, in New York City. These groups of local, state, and federal law enforcement officers and analysts are the keystone to effective interagency terrorism communications and investigations around the nation and they are working just fine.
Sheehan spends a great deal of his book discussing terrorism history and recounting all of the events of the last two decades. That is great background but in terms of providing new thinking, you have to wait for the final chapter of the book, appropriately titled, Crush the Cell.
Oddly enough, in that chapter the FBI is trashed yet again in a disparaging description of its InfraGard program. The FBI began this program in its Cleveland field office in 1996 and by 1998 it expanded to the entire nation. It is nothing more than a public-private effort coordinated by the FBI to make security and executive personnel in our nation's key asset corporations more aware of the threat against their business products and processes from hostile and non-hostile governments, individuals and terrorists.
Sheehan had this to say about InfraGard on page 233, "We were very skeptical of it, for its main event seemed to be a golf outing that appeared to be little more than a networking opportunity for FBI agents to make contacts with private-sector employers for whom they'd work when they retired."
It was such a bad idea, that NYPD started a copy-cat program called "NYPD Shield" so as not to be bested by the FBI. One has to wonder about Sheehan's analytical prowess having first made an erroneous assessment about InfraGard's value as an FBI program and then shifting to become a cheerleader for NYPD's version. It is said that imitation is the highest form of flattery.
Here is one final note about Sheehan's attention to detail. On pages 93-94 in the chapter titled, "Lone Wolves, Cults, and Radical Movements," Sheehan makes two major errors of fact. Discussing the incident at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, he writes, "On August 21, 1992, FBI agents surrounded the home of Randy and Vicki Weaver, suspected militia radicals...before they reached the house, the agents encountered the Weavers' fourteen-year-old son Samuel, who was purportedly hunting with his dog. They shot the dog, sparking a scuffle that left Samuel and a federal agent dead."
While Sheehan got the chain of events correct, it wasn't the FBI on the Weaver's mountain at that point. The initial shootout on Ruby Ridge was between U.S. Marshals and the Weavers--the FBI was no where near Ruby Ridge. The FBI was called in to fix things once they had been screwed up by US marshals and agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
In another example of confusion, Sheehan describes the attempt by agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to arrest David Koresh by surprise on a minor gun violation even after Koresh had been tipped off by associates to the agents' presence in the area. Sheehan writes on page 94, "ATF (with FBI) pursued the raid anyway and ended up laying siege to the Branch Davidian compound for fifty-one eventful days."
The FBI had nothing at all to do with the blunders at Waco the day of the initial raid. The FBI was no where near Mt. Carmel on that fateful day. That was all ATF. So why he writes that the ATF pursued the raid with the FBI is absolutely incorrect and rather surprising for someone with his pedigree.
The FBI did come to the rescue of the ATF at Waco, absolutely, just as it did for the U.S. Marshals at Ruby Ridge, but in no case was the FBI a participant in the planning or execution or initial assaults on Ruby Ridge or Waco. Indeed, had the FBI been involved in those aspects, things might well have turned out quite differently and the dozens of people who perished as a result of these needless incidents might be alive today.
Putting Sheehan's obsession with the FBI aside for the moment, he does finally provide some interesting recommendations at the end of his book. While many of them are not new--how the creation of the Department of Homeland Security was a mistake; the uselessness of the Director of National Intelligence--a few are indeed bold in their concept.
Yet despite his obvious distaste for the FBI (not one FBI mention in his long list of acknowledgments) he does touch on the creation of a domestic MI-5 to replace the intelligence collection and analysis currently performed within the FBI. On this note, I am in total agreement.
The FBI is without equal anywhere in the world in terms of its criminal investigative abilities. The story is not so compelling, however, with regard to the FBI's intelligence collection and analysis. To be sure that capability has grown tremendously in a parallel to sky's-the-limit post-9/11 budgets for anything related to terrorism.
But the FBI still has 535 masters and as crime creeps up in certain parts of the country, their voices have been rising asking "Where's the FBI?" Those are many of the same voices who asked with all of the political astonishment that they could muster, "How could the FBI have failed to connect the dots which might have prevented 9/11, dots we all see so clearly now?" They were too busy doing things that Congress demanded that they do; things that local police could and should have been doing on their own.
The answer to both is to remind Congress of what exactly the FBI is and should continue to be. In my view, it should continue to be the best criminal investigative organization the world has ever known. But in order to do that, it needs to relinquish responsibility for intelligence collection and analysis in both its present counterintelligence and counterterrorism branches and give those to a new stand alone organization, the MI-5 option.
This, among other proposals, are cataloged in the final chapter under Offensive and Defensive Strategies. It is within those pages where Sheehan is at his best. From understanding the enemy to border security to unilateral offensive operations to take out al Qaeda targets wherever they are found, Sheehan gives voice to what many "operators" have known all along. It is just too bad that so much of his book was spent on old news of FBI shortcomings and meaningless news (to the overall terrorism topic) of NYPD business practices.
Still, after all is said and done and experts have weighed in, the question remains, will the United States summon the national, political and moral will to follow through where real national security threats are identified?
Did you ever wonder just what those Homeland Security color codes mean? If you read Sheehan's book, you will know you can stop caring about them.
This is the book that helps you understand how a small group of dedicated men have so damaged and befuddled us and how we can defeat them without destroying the fabric of our lives. Sheehan discards the pedantic in favor of the practical. He is prescriptive without pretense. He explains why he thinks Hezbollah has not struck outside the Middle East in years, but admits he does not know if or when they might reach across the seas again.
Michael Sheehan has hit the balance point. He makes it clear that the terrorists dangerous and can do terrible damage. But he does so with no effort to terrify. His personal experience, from having his own boots on the ground to cabinet-level policy issues and back down to rubbing elbows with street detectives, gives Sheehan the ability to craft practical solutions that fit policy considerations at the highest level.
He reminds us that al Qaeda has been creative and persistent, but also bumbling (overloaded the boat; forgot to bring the gun).
His overall message: We can beat these guys if we keep calm, think about our actions, take our hits and stay with it.
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